Everything Happens For A Reason
by Pete Adams
(Vang Vieng, Laos, Sunday 9th December)
I have LOTS to say today so I'll warn you now this is gonna be VERY long!
Arrived V.V. Around 2pm yesterday and got a Tuk Tuk the 300 metres or so to the Guest house I booked this morning. I don't usually book ahead as there seem to be plenty of places about and I can check them out before committing to stay the night as I've seen some rough places and I have my tent for emergencies. But, this morning I happened to see an ad for this place just before I left Vientane, and it felt right so I rang and booked. ($4 double bed, ensuite).
As I got out the Tuk Tuk however, the guy at the guest house (Pans Place) told me that they were full. I told him I'd booked and as we were discussing the problem and he realised he'd forgotten my call, a girl walking past said I could have her room. So, all resolved and 30 mins and a cold beer later I'm in the room.
While I was waiting for the room I picked up what at first I thought was an activity brochure but was actually a folder titled A Bit of Zen and other matters for Contemplation which is full of Zen sayings and others added by guests. On the cover was a Ying Yang symbol and I then noticed one on the building as well. At the back of the folder was an ad for The Garden of Eden retreat centre nearby, which sounds really interesting. Before going you have to sign a contract agreeing not to smoke or drink alcohol etc. whilst you're there. I think I'll probably spend at least a couple of days there. The owner of Pans Place, Niel (with his fiancee Pan) is a Kiwi who's been here 2 years. Pan told me that Niel came up with the Ying Yang symbol and the Zen sayings, so I reckon we'll have a lot to talk about.
Basically I think Pans Place is really cool and I ended up staying there for a reason. In each of my following blog entries I will include one of the sayings from that Zen folder. So here's the first, which is one I added to the folder myself - "Everything happens for a reason".
Having settled in and showered I wandered through town. It's a bit of a shanty town but with lots of bars and restaurants catering for backpacking tourists like me. I visited a place recommended to me by Ben (www.benhanna.com if u want to see his blog) and sampled the food, beer and happy menu. I spent the next few hours trying to sort my technical difficulties in an internet cafe, chatting with Didem and Erdem on Skype, booking a kayaking trip etc.
While having supper before bed I chatted with a couple of Korean girls who had nearly finished a 9 month trip in which they visited around 15 countries and an Irish girl and her travelling partner Chris who intend to end up working in Australia in June.
I returned to Pans Place around midnight to find a large group of backpackers chatting on the terrace. Colin, an archeologist Scotsman turned stonemason, now travelling for a year, told me about an "amazing" sculpture park at Nong Pai just across the border into Thailand. He says that the guy who made the huge sculptures came to Thailand about 30 years ago and whilst trekking, fell down a big hole and landed in the lap of a hermit. He then spent some time with the hermit before deciding to stay in Thailand and then spent the rest of his life creating the sculpture park. Colin said it was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen and showed me several pictures. It is now on my list of places to go so hopefully I can tell you more about it later. He was also VERY enthusiastic about "tubing" so I reckon in a couple of days I'll be joining in.
Today I went on a kayaking, trekking and caving trip. I'm now sitting beside a fast flowing river eating a lunch of egg fried rice and barbequed vegetables using a bannana leaf for a plate and chopsticks. I could sure get used to this. This morning we kayaked down the river for I guess about 4 kms. I only capsized once and fortunately had my Tilley hat tiedon. We then trekked partly up a mountain and through some huge caves, seeing our way by holding candles. The scenery is stunning with what appear to be near vertical forested mountains beside the river.
Now back at the guest house before going out for dinner. The afternoon consisted of more kayaking and another caving trip which included wading and swimming through water, climbing and finally squeezing through a small hole to get out.
We then kayaked towards the pick up point stopping off to jump of a rope swing (several times) about 50 foot high into the river.
A fantastic day in a beautiful, natural environment !